Pedro de la Rosa celebrated his 100th GP last weekend in Monza, albeit thirteen years after he made his Formula One racing debut. He has an impressive repertoire of teams he has driven for including Jordan, Sauber and McLaren, and he now races for HRT. At the end of 2011 it was announced that de la Rosa had signed a two year deal to race for the Spanish team, and so we should see him on the grid into 2013, allowing him to add more races to his tally. He joins the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, who also celebrated their 100th GP this year, in reaching the milestone. This week he faces Scrutineering so read on for a look at his career, his season so far, and what the fans think!
De la Rosa took a slightly unconventional route to Formula One, making his racing debut with radio controlled cars. He won the European radio-controlled off road championship in 1983 and 1984, and he was the runner-up in the world championship in 1986. It wasn’t until 1988, when he was 17, that he took up karting – much later than other Formula One drivers. In 1989 he became Formula Fiat Uno champion, moving to the Spanish Formula Ford 1600 in 1990, where he wasted no time in taking that championship as well. He took part in the Spanish Formula Renault Championship in 1991, where he finished fourth, before moving to the Great Britain championship in 1992, adding another championship win to his collection. In 1993 and 1994 he took part in British Formula Three, with sixth being his best finish, before becoming champion in the All-Japan Formula Three championship in 1995, and finishing third in the Macau GP. During his time in British Formula Three, a young Christian Horner (now Red Bull Team Principal) was racing in the National Class.
In 1996 and 1997 de la Rosa raced in the Formula Nippon championship, finishing 8th in his first season and coming first in his second. He also won the All-Japan GT championship, adding another title to his already impressive tally. In the space of nine years he had accumulated seven titles in the various championships he took part in.
In 1998 de la Rosa was signed up by the Jordan team as a test driver. At that time they were running Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher in the championship, and de la Rosa completed a significant amount of testing for the team, on their way to fourth in the constructors championship.
Arrows (1999 – 2000)
In 1999, de la Rosa joined the Arrows team, partnering Toranosuke Takagi for his first year of Formula One racing. He scored points on his debut, and is one of only a handful of current Formula One driver, such as Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Räikkönen, and Nico Rosberg who have done so, picking up a point for sixth place at the Australian GP. He finished 18th overall in the championship, and moved up to 16th in 2000 when he remained with the team, this time with Jos Verstappen as his team-mate.
Prost/Jaguar (2001 – 2002)
De la Rosa lost his Arrows seat to Enrique Bernoldi for the 2001 season and so moved to Prost as test driver. However, when Gastón Mazzacane was fired from Prost and replaced by Luciano Burti, this left a free seat at the Jaguar team, which de la Rosa promptly filled from round five onwards in 2001, and retained it for 2002, partnering former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine.
McLaren (2003 – 2009, 2011)
And now for de la Rosa’s longest running association within Formula One – his time spent at McLaren. He was signed on to be their test and reserve driver from 2003 and he remained there, carrying out an extensive amount of testing and filling in for the team when Juan Pablo Montoya made an early exit in 2006 (as well as a race in 2005). During this time he took his first Formula One podium with a second in Hungary, as well as four other points finishes. He left McLaren at the end of 2009 when he was offered a race seat with Sauber, but after that did not work out, he returned to the Woking based team to resume his role as test and reserve driver for 2011. At the end of 2011 it was announced that de la Rosa would be joining HRT, having signed a two year contract, so he once again left McLaren. When he left the team, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh had the following to say:
“Pedro’s contribution to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has been fantastically valuable – perhaps even more valuable than may be apparent to outsiders in fact – ever since he joined us in 2003. As a test driver, he’s been extraordinarily hard-working – on track and, latterly, more often, in our simulator – and his feedback has been reliable and expert. But his contributions have gone wider and deeper than that: Pedro is the archetypal team player, a big motivational presence in our team, and, perhaps because of that, he’s someone whom I personally will always count as a true friend.”
demonstrating just what an important part he was of the team he was a member of for eight years.
Sauber (2010, 2011)
De la Rosa joined the Sauber team in 2010, but was dropped in favour of Nick Heidfeld after the Italian GP. During his time racing for Sauber, he picked up one points finish in Hungary when he finished in seventh place at the circuit where he scored his first podium. After being dropped by the team he tested for Pirelli before returning to McLaren for 2011. After Sergio Perez was involved in a heavy accident during qualifying for the Monaco GP, de la Rosa was called in to replace him at Sauber for the Canadian GP, where he finished 12th.
HRT (2012 – ?)
At the end of the 2011 season it was announced that HRT, a Spanish team, would have a Spanish driver in their line-up in the form of de la Rosa. At 41, he is the second oldest driver on the grid, but this does not seem to hold him back, and he has a wealth of experience to draw on. He has out-qualified team-mate Narain Karthikeyan 12-1 this season and has finished ten of the twelve races he has entered. Both HRT drivers qualified outside the 107% rule in Australia and so were not permitted to take part in the GP. His best finishing position has been 17th, but due to his team-mate having one 15th place, he currently lies 25th in the championship. He is also the current President of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA).
What the fans say and like!
- His work for McLaren – obviously a highly valued member of the such a great team
- His longevity – he has been around for years and keeps coming back to race
- He always seems to be happy
- He drove for West Surrey Racing (in British Formula Three) – a great team!
- When he stepped in for Perez at Sauber
- His podium in Hungary – he deserved a result like that!
- He drove for Arrows in a “cool looking car”
- The matte finish on his helmet is nice
- His perseverance to race
- He has appeared in 100 GP weekends